Access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right. The current food system fails to ensure this right is met in the UK. On the one hand food is too expensive for the poorest. On the other it is too cheap meaning the costs to the environment are too high. Too much of the capital produced in the food industry is extracted by shareholders, in agribusiness and retail giants. 1 , 2 Our tax system also encourages land to be used in unsustainable ways. Public health has to be seen as a public good alongside environmental ones. The overwhelming power of the big three/four retail giants has to be broken. On an island particularly suited to it we only produce 23% of the fruit and veg that we consume. 3 That means we are exporting the social and environmental costs of producing that food – mostly to Spain and the Netherlands. Brexit is now causing a big shortfall in seasonable labour. Wages must increase to attract workers to these vital jobs. Half of the wheat produced in the UK is used to feed animals, while 85% of UK farmland is used to produce meat and it only provides around 18% of the calories we need. 4 , 5 This is unsustainable. A plant-based diet cuts the use of land by 76% and halves the greenhouse gases and other pollution that are caused by food production. Also between 30 and 50% of all food produced is wasted. 6 Fifty percent of the world’s human population is sustained by food produced with artificial nitrogen fertiliser, 7 but the figure is much higher for the UK, with organic accounting for only 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market. 8 Over-use of Nitrogen has caused widespread environmental damage to rivers, wetlands, by polluting drinking water and compromising soil health. It also means food is less nutritious than it used to be. Farmland wildlife has massively declined over the past 70 years and that’s down to government policies and subsidies. We are now in danger of having farmland that is devoid of wildlife other than a few very common species, which can benefit from the intensive industrial approaches. Agri-environment schemes have failed to stem these declines, though intensive management for a few species, such as Cirl Bunting, Adonis blue butterfly, have been successful. Increasingly farmers do care about the wildlife on their farmland, but, thanks to Shifting Baseline Syndrome*, they cannot appreciate what has already been lost. The economic and peer-group

pressure to maintain or increase food production as the primary reason for farming also forces farmers to eradicate what little wildlife is left. These pressures have combined with long-term problems such as too much nitrogen and phosphate accumulation, decades of pesticides use, wetland drainage, woodland & hedgerow loss and wholesale conversion of wildlife-rich grassland to intensive grass monocultures. We are now at crisis point in the farmed environment.


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2. Clapp, J., Isakson, S.R., (2018). Risky Returns: The Implications of Financialization in the Food System. 
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4. de Ruiter, H., Macdiarmid, J.I., Matthews, R.B., Kastner, T., Lynd, L.R., Smith, P. (2017). Total global agricultural land footprint associated with UK food supply 1986–2011.
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5. Poore, J., Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers.
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8. Soil Association, 2018. The 2018 organic market report. Available at: 20/08/2018)